The news that President-Elect Joe Biden and First Lady-Elect Dr. Jill Biden’s plan to add a cat to the First Family-elect seems like another step in the unification of partisan factions – dog and cat lovers. The prospect of a cat joining the first elected family would mean joining a household that includes dogs – two German Shepherds named Major and Champ. Dr. Biden had previously pointed out the possibility back in September when a Washington television presenter asked her if her husband had promised to get her something if he won the election.
“Well, I’d like to have a cat,” she told a Fox News interviewer. “I love having animals in the house.” Although the tension between dogs and cats has long been the subject of humor and folklore, many of us know firsthand that dogs and cats can live together harmoniously. However, certain precautions should always be taken when mixing dogs and cats in a household. We asked The Bark-based animal behaviorist Karen B. London, Ph.D. about the matter, and she replied …
The most common introductions of dogs and cats – by putting them in a room and hoping for the best – all too often lead to problems. Even friendly, cat-loving dogs can chase the frightened cat, which then never wants to come out of hiding. If an initial dog and cat introduction doesn’t go well, it will be very difficult to reverse that relationship. So the main piece of advice for introducing cats to dogs is to get it right because you can’t repeat it.
Therefore, keep them apart for a few days or weeks. Put the cat in its own area of the house with everything it needs to be happy – food, water, litter box, toys, and good sleeping quarters.
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Spend a lot of time with her so she doesn’t feel isolated.
Get the dog and cat used to the sight and smell of one another with a gate between them. Encourage positive feelings by giving them plenty of toys, treats, and attention.
Once they are calm and comfortable in the presence of each other, begin controlled, no-gate, leash-free interactions, and keep their experience positive with treats, petting, toys, and calm manner.
Before you have them uninhibited in the same room, provide a high point in each room that the cat (but not the dog) can access and use as an escape route for cats.
Use Felaway, a man-made cat odor labeling product that helps cats feel comfortable in new environments that might otherwise be bothering them. Put a little in the high places for the cats as well as any usual perches or sleeping places.
Properly conducted introductions will maximize the chances of cats and dogs becoming friends, or at least tolerating one another.
Here are some resources to help you decide whether to combine a dog-cat household: